Twice a month, the city of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee convenes to discuss plans to make alterations to structures that fall within one of the city’s many historic and commercial revitalization districts. This column summarizes recent DRC activity, with projects grouped by type and location. This edition of Design Review recaps the DRC meeting from Nov. 19, 2014.
21st Street North
The Redmont Hotel (2101 Fifth Avenue North) is currently undergoing a renovation. The plan is at the stage where some of the renovations are affecting the exterior, specifically doors and windows. Plans include replacing a set of narrow double doors currently used as a server’s egress to outdoor patio space, a recessed service door, and windows and doors leading onto the balcony on Fifth Avenue. The egress double doors are to be replaced with a single door made to look like the existing doors. The new service door will also go through the same treatment. Above the service door, the transom will be turned into a louvered fresh air intake for the air conditioning system.
As for the balcony, there are currently two sets of doors and windows the owners wish to change into four sets of doors. The new doors will replicate the existing doors and sidelight windows. Committee members pointed out the old versus new differences in the painting and were assured everything would get a paint treatment. The new owners plan to reopen the Redmont once again as a hotel.
Status: Approved, one opposed.
Alabama Power Company discussed plans for an awning system at the entrances of their employee parking deck (700 18th Street North). This system will enhance the safety of employees, especially in inclement weather. The committee recommended lighting as well, but to keep the fixtures unobtrusive. Staff can circulate the lighting information.
Prior to presenting the renovation plans for Virginia Samford Theatre’s (1116 26th Street South) new enclosed lobby, the architects (KPS Group) engaged the committee in a work session. Out of this session, it was determined by the architects that the best course of action for the project would be a glass box that would cover the existing entry pavers and also allow the original architecture to remain a focal point of the façade. The committee members expressed concerns about coordinating the entrance doors with the arched doorways, how the structure would attach to the brick exterior, and the glass supports. The interior of the remodel will match the new lobby with the existing décor.
The neighborhood association approved the project. The committee members would like to see a true elevation to show the alignment of the glass and brick once any technological issues are solved. They were amenable to have this circulated via email. The project will return with new signage.
Status: Approved, with one opposed.
A proposal was presented to the committee to demolish a derelict building in Lakeview (700 28th Street South). The building, formerly used as apartments, is in very poor shape and the owner wants to grade and stabilize the site. The rear apartments burned over 15 years ago and, until recently, the majority owner provided little to no upkeep and would not part with the property. The walls are separating from the main structure, termite damage is rampant and asbestos can be found throughout.
The committee asked to see an engineer’s report as these are required for any buildings considered contributing structures in historic districts. There is currently a master plan in development for the Lakeview Business District and inquiries were made as to how the future of this property relates to the plan — the committee does not want to see the site turned into a parking lot.
Status: Carried over for an engineer’s report and the master plan.
19th Street North
Coyote Logistics is relocating from 280 to downtown (1904 First Avenue North). The company will take over the building formerly home to Childcare Resources and will be the only tenant. The current blade sign will be replaced with a new sign featuring illuminated letters. They also requested a wall sign to be installed. The committee approved the blade sign and requested the company return with the second sign once the building’s pattern of use is settled.
Iron City Lofts (2719 Fourth Avenue South) presented plans for the apartment building’s signage. The committee explained how they needed more details on the attachment, shop drawings, and to see larger images of the proposed signage.
Status: Carried over.
The renovation of a former Rally’s into a Wings Plus (9525 Parkway East) has previously been approved. The owner did not seek approval before updating the exterior eating area adjacent to the building. In addition to asking forgiveness for the recently constructed gazebo, the signage was brought to the committee. The proposal included two pole signs, one on Parkway East and one at the alley. The committee denied the alley sign.
Status: Approved, one opposed.
Plans were presented to fence off a property that recently suffered a fire (4407 Overlook Road). The owner is currently undecided as to whether or not to sell or rebuild the property. The basement, stairs and driveway are still in good condition. However, with so much of the structure destroyed, it has become a hazard on the property. It was proposed to install fencing around the basement as a safety precaution. A similar fence was installed after another property on the street suffered the same fate.
Status: Approved, one opposed.
Adding to historic buildings
During this week’s meeting, an audience member asked a question regarding the Virginia Samford Theatre renovation. They wanted to know why the architect did not design something that perfectly matched the existing building.
The Department of the Interior, the agency that oversees the National Register of Historic Places, developed the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. These Standards include a list of items that need to be looked at before determining whether or not an addition is appropriate.
As the Standards explain, “Before expanding the building’s footprint, consideration should first be given to incorporating changes — such as code upgrades or spatial needs for a new use — within secondary areas of the historic building.” The Department understands how an evaluation of these issues could conclude that an addition is required.
The regulations set forth by the Secretary, specifically Standards 9 and 10, state the following:
(9) New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.
(10) New additions and adjacent or related new construction shall be undertaken in such a manner that if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.
Also, a new addition should “preserve significant historic materials, features, and form; be compatible; and be differentiated from the historic building.”
It was under these standards that the architects at KPS developed the design for the glass lobby structure at Virginia Samford Theatre.